The deadlock over Iraq’s election law, which is making an election by the end of January increasingly unlikely, is bad news. It raises the prospect of political gridlock, a government holding power past the period prescribed by the constitution, and ultimately a deterioration of security conditions. But there are also positive signs emanating from Iraq. Civilian casualties continue to fall, now down to the lowest levels since the U.S. invasion of 2003. Reuters reports: “Eighty-eight civilians were killed this month in violence, Health Ministry data showed, the first time the monthly bodycount has dropped below 100.” That’s especially good news because there was a horrific bombing in Baghdad on October 25. In the past, that might have sparked sectarian violence. This time, it hasn’t happened.
Another bit of good news: Western oil companies are beginning to invest in Iraq. That’s a benefit of improved security, and as long as the situation remains stable, we can expect more investment, more oil production, and a healthier Iraqi economy, which in turn will reinforce the trend toward stability.
A lot can still go wrong, especially with American troops scheduled for reduction from 116,000 today to just 50,000 by August; but notwithstanding the failure to reach agreement so far on an election law, most of the trends in Iraq are moving in the right direction. That’s just as well, because even if the situation were to deteriorate markedly, there is scant chance that President Obama would delay the pullout of American forces.